Pregnancy & Exercise

Pregnancy & Exercise

First and foremost: 
Women can "feel" shortness of breath during all normal ADL's (activity of daily living) throughout pregnancy. However, lung capacity remains the same and this shortness of breath is due to the elevated levels of the hormone progesterone. This hormone helps to stimulate breathing and improves the transfer of gases between mom and baby. This is something that is repeatedly overlooked or considered "not safe." In fact, exercise can help build a bigger and more vascularized placenta to help protect the baby. You want to make sure you have adequate airflow during all physical activity, so don't go for that run on the hottest, most humid day of the week or exercise in a sauna room!

What to do if you have been exercising:
If you've been exercising pre-pregnancy, then there is no reason to stop the same type of activity you've been doing. Women who continue to exercise through their pregnancy have shown improvement in the health of their baby, short- and long- term. There are multiple studies that have shown babies of exercising moms have tolerated labor and delivery better than babies of non-exercising women (not always true in all cases such as; environmental issues during labor and delivery. Ex. Baby's heart rate drops, umbilical cord wrapped around baby, high blood pressure a.k.a preeclampsia). Keep up with your same routine, but also try to add a variety of activities. If you're a runner, try adding in biking or swimming. If you like to lift weights, try jumping on the elliptical for some cardio. The key to a well-rounded exercise program is implementing cardio training for endurance, adding strength routines, and most importantly; flexibility blocks. For your flexibility, yoga is highly recommended and this way you can work on breathing techniques, opening up those hips, and keeping your body's muscles relaxed. I would like to add one more thing to this juicy info - Keep exercising right up until labor if you CAN. Studies have shown many benefits to continuing all activities late into pregnancy. You can reduce your risk of premature labor and smaller birth weights, decrease the need for operative intervention and pain management (C-section and Epidurals), shorter labor times (because no woman wants a 20 plus labor a.k.a ME) and less weight gain. 

What to do if you have NOT been exercising:
Just because you have never exercised pre-pregnancy, does not mean you can't or shouldn't start. However, you should start by asking your Doctor first and making sure you are cleared, especially if you have any underlying health conditions. Once you've been given the okay, I would start slow with body weight movements ONLY. You don't want to add any additional stressors to your body since baking a baby is one in its own. You want to make sure you don't overexert yourself either. It's best to start off with 2-3 days a week for about 20-30 minutes of low impact aerobic activity. (Ex: squats, lunges, push-ups, bicycles, taking a brisk walk, etc.) You could also join a prenatal yoga class and let your instructor know you are a beginner. There are tons of beginner videos on YouTube FYI. Same for exercise routines during all trimesters. Also, I will have my workout plans available within in the next few months for extra guidance. 

What exercises should be avoided, if anything, during pregnancy: 
Any exercise that repeats explosive and jarring movements should be avoided, especially during the 2nd and 3rd trimesters. This can include jumping, hopping, skipping, bouncing and other exercises that involve lying flat on your back or belly. Laying flat on your back can decrease blood flow to the uterus and generally this is uncomfortable for you too. (You'll start to notice this when sleeping at night, as sleeping on your side with a pillow in between your legs or under your belly is super comforting).

When should you stop exercising: 
Both your Doctor and I would tell you to STOP exercising if you're feeling unwell or in pain! The 1st trimester can be very tough as your body starts to change, so you might become unwell and nauseous some or most of the time. I would recommend waiting until you feel better in the day or just overall waiting until the sickness passes. Feeling sick all the time for a few weeks can make it extremely difficult to eat and stay hydrated, so the last thing you want to do is add exercise into play.

A few things to consider:

  • Women exercising during pregnancy can be very individualized
  • Core and pelvic floor strengthening are very important for pregnancy (most can be performed in side-lying, quadruped position, half-kneeling, seated and standing)
  • Working on your balance can be very beneficial for preventing falls (and yes your equilibrium will be off especially when you start to waddle)
  • Try to avoid too much twisting movements of the trunk especially in the 2nd and 3rd trimester
  • Go with your best judgement, if something isn't feeling right STOP doing it
  • Always consult your Doctor if your "unsure"
  • Read as much info as you can on the subject!

I am going to share some links with ya'll to read a little more in detail. Of the following are some resources from NASM (National Academy of Sports Medicine).

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